Sunday, August 24, 2008

Searching for Aunt Annie's Grave Part 1

Do you remember being a kid and having no fear of climbing up steep hillsides just because they were there or you just wanted to see what you could see at the top? Well I did that Friday … sort of.

I did have one fear – snakes. I don’t remember the hills being quite so steep that I was climbing. I had very few trees or roots to grab onto. First, we crossed a creek, and then we started up. The area was covered with dead leaves and the soft ground beneath it did not provide much of a foothold.

I used three rules:

Don’t look down.

The person ahead of you is up there, so it can be done.

Don’t think about how you will get down.

My sister, Donna and I took a trip to Kentucky. Our goal was to visit the grave our great great aunt , Mary Ann Bentley Elliott Wright. She was known as Aunt Annie. .

We went up 23 til we came to the Pike County line where we turned left. We followed the road for a bit and came to where there was a lot of mining going on. I saw water spraying on one side of the road and ruts that I would not like to have driven through. I then got the joke that cousin Lois had told me about being sure to use the carwash at the cemeteries in Beefhide. We finagled around the roads the coal trucks were using and came to a cemetery that we could see. We decided instead of going through it first that we would go on to Mary’s which was further up the creekbed which ran beside the first cemetery.

As a guide we were looking for a rock by the road and one in the middle of the creekbed. There were several, but they didn’t look distinctive enough. Finally, we spied a fence across and up the other side of the creek. Did I mention it was straight up?

We crossed the creek, and started climbing. There was nothing to hold onto much and you had to try to dig a foothold in the soft earth. The tracks made would just crumble so we couldn’t even follow in each other’s footsteps. It was the wrong cemetery, and we had to go back.

Easier said than done.

I now broke one of my rules and looked down. Straight down. I got myself turned for the downward treck. I had already told Donna not to follow right behind me in case I slipped so I wouldn’t take her down, too. Better advice was never given. I did slip and ended up on my bottom sliding down the bank. I aimed for a small tree with thoughts in my head that I was not actually pulling a Sonny Bono because I was bigger than the tree. I just didn’t want to slide all the way down to the bottom because I didn’t want to hit the rocky creek bed maybe head first in a tumble. The tree stopped me and I had to maneuver so I had both legs on one side of the poor sapling. I managed to get down to the bottom without further incident – other than the thoughts that flashed through my head about the snakes I could have picked up along the way.

Donna made it down in one piece and without the slide/tree maneuver I used.

We did some further searching, but it was very overgrown and we could not find the markers we were looking for.

At one point we were standing by a really muddy place in the road and trying to decide what animals had made the tracks in the mud. One was three pronged like some kind of bird. But it was a big bird since its track measured as big as Donna’s hand. Then there were cat/paw like tracks which looked a bit like the bird/three pronged animal had been chasing a cat or vice versa. We thought of very large cats and very large birds and how dumb were we to be standing where that had been a very short time ago.

We finally decided that we couldn’t find the crossing because it had been described to us in a different season when the growth was not so full and wild. We decided to turn around and go back to the cemeteries that we could reach by car and try the search again in the fall after the greenery had turned brown and was no longer so full.

We drove back to the cemetery . It said it was a Joel Wright Cemetery, but I am not sure which Joel Wright that would refer to. Inside the chain link fence there was a plaque stating that it was originally established in 1901 about a mile south of that point at the headwaters of Andy Wright Fork and was moved to this location in 1998.

After we moved through the graves we went back further to Samuel Wright’s cemetery. It was a little bit of a walk but it involved no climbing, crossing or sliding. It was hard to see because of the growth around it but we were soon going through its gate.

Look closely and you will see the chain link fence. This was the cemetery we had climbed toward.

When we left this cemetery we looked across the clearing to a line of trees and wild growth. Our cousin, Lois, had said the third cemetery which we had tried to scale the wall for was about a hundred yards through that growth. We did not try to go through it and returned to the car.

From there we went to a cemetery that I had been told about at the Wright reunion. I had asked about a Wright Cemetery which was referred to on Daniel Vanover’s death certificate. Daniel was Jesse Wrght’s father-in-law. He served at the undertaker and it was stated Mr. Vanover was buried in the Jesse Wright cemetery. The ladies at the reunion thought it might be a cemetery out on 805 which had lots of Bentleys and Wrights, but was called the Bentley cemetery. It turned out to be the Ratliff cemetery.

There was a road going right up to the grave. Unfortunately, it had ruts the car could be lost in so we parked toward the bottom and walked up. At the top I might have missed where the graves were, but we found them on the hillside. I tried to take pictures of all of them. At one grave a dead branch was hanging down blocking my view of the tombstone. I moved it away and it was pointed out “I don’t mean to alarm you, but there could be reptiles there.” To which I became a squealing little girl whose next three shots were totally useless because of the unsteadiness of the cameras.

There were a couple of the covered graves like the one little Viola Wright had at Haymond. Neither was standing up very well. The roofs were intact, but the poor corner poles were sagging or tilted badly.

Ben and Sarah Ratliff Wright were at this cemetery.

The walk down was much easier than the walk up.

Next we drove over to the cemetery at McRoberts which Lois had directed us to. This is a HUGE cemetery. We looked at the old Wright portion of the graves where there is a memorial marker for Joel and Susannah Wright.

Donna and I went through a few of the graves seeing that some were Mullins, Crafts and other family names. I wanted to sit down and sort of map out the area. There were several different chain link enclosed fences. I wanted to see who was who, but I had run out of gas. Now I knew where this one was and could reach it easily so we decided to come back another day to draw the map and take more pictures.

It was a great day. We stopped at Mama Mia’s Deli at Kona on the way back. Lois had told us how good the food was. We met the owners and ate wonderful food. He told us that the cemetery where John Wallis and Sarah Waldrup Bates were buried was overgrown and impossible to get to. He said he was going to take a bulldozer and clear a path to it in the spring. What great news.

It was a wonderful day.

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